Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Spiritually Correct Candidates?

Faith shows up in weird places. When I was a young man in Oklahoma, I would occasionally see classified ads in the newspaper, advertising the services of a “Christian Dog Groomer.” Peculiar. Why would anyone with a dirty dog care about the theology of the person working at the Pooch Parlor? All I’d want to know is whether the groomer is good with animals.

It’s the same with political candidates. Why should it matter to me if Barak Obama is a Muslim or a Christian, or McCain a Baptist? I want a president who’s a skilled manager and consensus builder, who will uphold the Constitution and execute the laws fairly. Their economic philosophy is important to me. But whether they’re Catholic, or Mormon, or Jewish is immaterial, except as private beliefs spill over into public policies.

That’s evidently what America’s framers thought when they wrote the Constitution. The only mention of religion appears in Article Six, which states there will be no religious tests for public office. Had spiritual correctness been required, probably none of our first four presidents—neither Washington, nor Adams, nor Jefferson, nor Madison-- would ever have been elected.

What would our founders have thought when Campbell Brown asked the Democratic candidates about their faith at a forum last spring in Grantham, Pennsylvania. Addressing Hillary Clinton, Brown observed that “You said in an interview last year that you believe in the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. And you have actually felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions.”

Mr. Brown then went on to ask Hillary to “share some of those occasions with us.”

Why is that the voter’s concern? The electorate at the time had every right to learn about Hillary’s health care plan and hear her views on NAFTA. But her encounters with the Holy Spirit should have had no bearing on her campaign. The height of indecency came when Mitt Romney’s underwear became a media topic. Bloggers wondered, exactly what do the Latter Day Saints wear under their trousers? The proper answer, of course, is that it’s none of our damn business.

George Washington said that when he needed a job done on his Mount Vernon estate, he was an equal opportunity employer, willing to hire “Mohometans, Jews, or Christians of any Sect, or they may be Atheists” so long as they were able workers. Perhaps we should apply the same common sense standard to our current crop of candidates. They may be Muslims, Jews, Christians or Atheists. The question is, are they up to the job?


Bill Baar said...

Confronted with a brutal enemy who blows up Mosques in the name of God, I'd much rather Obama would stand up and say today we're all Muslims.

A Muslim in the Green Zone told me just that. He sounded awfully Universalist to me.

Here's Hopkins, voicing something similar to Churchill back in 41. If Obama would talk like this, he would dispell much of this Muslim talk... which frankly is something I hear from him only. It seems very much his straw man.

Few dramatists could match the poignant scene when Britain stood alone against the Nazi power that dominated a conquered or fawningly neutral Europe. Roosevelt sent his envoy Harry Hopkins to Churchill. At dinner Hopkins quoted from the Book of Ruth: "Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people and their God my God," softly adding, "Even to the end." --From Meachem Franklin and Winston

Baghdad will offer Obama the perfect spot for an Ich bin ein Baghdadi speech. I hope he has the moral courage to show his Solidarity with some very brave Muslims there.

Bill Baar said...

I think the Christian Label has more to do with trust than faith.

Go to any big city where individuals thrown together from all over, and you'll see people looking to deal with people then can trust and usually the way they identify that is by some shared attribute, language, religion, place of origin.

Same goes with clothes and speech and UUs just as guilty. We often associate with those who seem like us symbolically because it's all we have to go on at first when establishing relationships of trust.

That's all that's going on with this groomer and it's more evidence of the isolation so many feel. There's really not much more to it than that I think.